The Matt Garza trade story simply didn’t have enough intrigue … or obsessive coverage.
According to simultaneous reports from Jon Heyman and Jesse Rogers, the Chicago Cubs and Matt Garza’s marriage may not end this month. Instead, according to the reports, the possibility of an extension for the impending free agent remains a possibility. The reports are relatively thin on details, offering mostly that the Cubs have kinda-sorta-maybe re-approached Garza with extension ideas.
Heyman, you’ll recall, reported two weeks ago that the two sides had ruled out the possibility of an extension, setting the stage for this here Obsessive Watch. Most believed that the Cubs and Garza haven’t seriously entertained the possibility of an extension in a very long time (Heyman says it hasn’t been since Spring Training 2012). Apparently there has been a reversal by the Cubs and/or Garza.
Why, you ask, after months of no extension talks (reportedly and presumably) would the two sides suddenly be discussing an extension? Well, the cynical response is that they aren’t really. The Cubs, you’d say, have just re-engaged Garza so that they can tell other teams, “yeah, we’re talking about an extension … better pony up if you want him!” You’d further point out that the fact that Jon Heyman and Jesse Rogers simultaneously reported these talks “according to a source” sure smells like a controlled leak for leverage.
Then again, you cynical rascal, I could counter that there is a legitimate explanation for renewed extension talks. The Cubs, having shopped Garza for a couple weeks now, have a very good sense of his value to other teams. They could then use that value – perhaps it isn’t as high as they’d like it to be – to tell Garza that, “hey, Matt, you know we love you. But the market out there for you simply isn’t what we hoped it would be. We may not be able to trade you, in which case, we’re going to have to make you a qualifying offer after the season. If you don’t take it, you saw what happened last Winter – your contract will probably be depressed dramatically. Sorry about that. But we’d still love to sign you to a reasonable extension if you’re interested.”
Something like that. The Cubs could also point to the lack of trade interest – again, this is all hypothetical, because I actually expect there’s a ton of trade interest – as a sign that the free agent market for Garza won’t be as robust as he hopes. Maybe he won’t get the huge contract he expects, and maybe he should consider a reasonable three or four-year deal with the Cubs right now.
In the end, do I buy that explanation? Eh. It’s around the same level of plausibility as a mere smokescreen. Keeping Garza on a team-friendly extension has always been the best possible outcome here. He’s 29, effective, and now looks healthy. The Cubs have a lack of upper-level pitching depth, and are going to need a whole lot if they hope to be improved in 2014.
But, for Garza’s part, you can understand why he’d want to test the market. He’s shaping up to be not only the best pitcher on the market, but one of the pre-eminent free agents. He could command huge dollars if he keeps pitching like he has been.
In the end, I suspect that we’ve got a combination of things going on here. The Cubs know they’re probably going to have to trade Garza, but they legitimately wanted to make one last approach on a possible extension. If they can get a deal that makes sense done with Garza, then great, they’ll do it. If not, then this one last approach also helps slightly with their various trade talks.
UPDATE: Adding legitimacy to the extension talks – or to the cynical leverage-building theory, depending on your bent – Ken Rosenthal now also reports that a Cubs source tells him extension talks have occurred. He says it’s due to the Cubs now being more comfortable with Garza’s health. Again, that could just be more leverage-building by the Cubs (“hey, worried teams: we’re so confident in Garza’s health that we want to extend him!”), or it could be a legitimate reason to re-assess.